PARIS (CBS/AP) — A massive fire engulfed the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the French capital Monday, shooting up its long spire and sending thick plumes of smoke high into the blue sky as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. The cathedral’s roof has since collapsed, along with the spire.
CBS3’s Vittoria Woodill is on vacation in Paris with her husband and went to the cathedral on their first day in the city.
“It’s extremely disappointing and disheartening and makes us all sick to our stomach,” said Woodill.
Woodill has been streaming the fire for the CBS Philly Facebook page.
“It’s absolutely terrible,” Woodill said during a Facebook Live. Video showed flames collapsing the cathedral’s roof.
“You can feel the emotion and shock in the air. Everyone is out their windows, out their doors, watching this happening,” explained Woodill.
The cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions.
“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media.
As Paris firefighters battled the blaze, part of the spire of the 12-century monument collapsed.
Paris police said there were no deaths so far and the origin of the fire was unknown. French media quoted the Paris fire brigade saving the fire is “potentially linked” to a $6.8 million renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead.
Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Sights of the flames stopped passers-by in their tracks along the Seine River that passes beneath the cathedral.
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the stunning blaze and was going to the cathedral himself.
Macron’s pre-recorded speech was set to be aired Monday evening, to lay out his long-awaited answers to the yellow vest crisis that has rocked the country since last November.
Associated Press reporters at the scene saw massive plumes of yellow brown smoke filling the air above the Cathedral and ash falling on the island that houses Notre Dame and marks the center of Paris.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is in despair at the “terrible fire.” Hidalgo said in a Twitter message that Paris firefighters are still trying to limit the fire and urged Paris citizens to respect the security perimeter that has been set around the cathedral.
Hidalgo said Paris authorities are in touch with Paris diocese.
Reactions from around the world came swiftly.
In Washington, Trump tweeted: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris” and suggested first responders use “flying water tankers” to put it out.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying “to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames! God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)